In the backdrop of the controversial Jamia Nagar police encounter and demands for proscription of Hindutva outfits targeting Christians in BJP-ruled states, the October 13 National Integration Council meeting here was in any case billed to be a dour affair.
But the daylong discussions on combating inter-community, inter-religious and linguistic conflicts could be choppier. At the meeting to be attended by BJP chief ministers, Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, the council’s newest member, is set to play the protagonist for “alienated Muslims” and north Indians under attack by Raj Thackrey’s chauvinistic Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Not as much out of altruism as part of a strategy to add to his party’s electoral base, the SP leader has been slugging it out with the likes of Bajrang Dal — on the rampage against Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and MP —and a section of Congressmen over the Jamia Nagar encounter and other incidents he thinks have alienated the Muslim community.
His nomination to the Council by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is ostensibly placatory, coming as it does in the run-up to the NIC meeting and within days of a verbal spat that saw the Congress’s Satyabrat Chaturvedi deriding him as a “mentally imbalanced” person for his prognosis of Delhi Police officer MC Sharma’s death in the Jamia encounter.
The Congress has dissociated since from Chaturvedi’s diatribe against Singh. And the prime minister has put him on the NIC in his capacity as its chairperson. First set up in 1962, the council, comprising Union ministers, chief ministers and leaders of political parties, was envisaged by Pandit Nehru as a forum for forging a national response to threats posed by communal, casteist, regional and other divisive forces.
“We are not trying to appease the Muslims. We are of the firm view that their alienation isn’t good in the country’s fight against terrorism,” Singh told HT on being informed by Home Minister Shivraj Patil of his nomination to the council on Thursday.
“There is no way one can reconcile the government’s cavalier approach to Hindu fundamentalism with Muslim persecution,” he argued.
He said the Bajrang Dal and the MNS weren’t “invisible” like the Indian Mujahideen, suspected of serial explosions in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. “What action has been taken against Raj Thackrey’s party and Hindu bomb-makers that killed Muslims in Malegaon,” he asked.
The SP leader has his arguments ready to rally the minorities around his party. But if she turns up, the BSP’s Mayawati wouldn’t allow him a free run of the place.